Sea ice within the Antarctic area has fallen to a document low this 12 months because of rising world temperatures and there’s no fast repair to reverse the injury performed, scientists stated on Tuesday in a brand new research of the affect of local weather change on the continent.
The continent’s minimal summer time ice cowl, which final 12 months dipped under 2 million sq. kilometres (772,000 sq. miles) for the primary time since satellite tv for pc monitoring started in 1978, fell additional to a brand new low in February, in response to a research printed within the journal Frontiers in Environmental Science.
“It’s going to take decades if not centuries for these things to recover. There’s no quick fix to replacing this ice,” stated Caroline Holmes, polar local weather scientist at British Antarctic Survey and one of many research’s co-authors.
“It will certainly take a long time, even if it’s possible,” she advised a briefing with journalists.
This 12 months’s sea ice minimal is 20% decrease than the common during the last 40 years, equal to a sea ice loss practically 10 occasions the world of New Zealand, stated Tim Naish, director of the Antarctic Analysis Centre at Australia’s Victoria College of Wellington, who was not a participant within the research.
“In some cases we are getting close to tipping points, which once crossed will lead to irreversible changes with unstoppable consequences for future generations,” Naish stated.
International warming pushed by the burning of fossil fuels has made Antarctica extra weak to excessive occasions and the affect is “virtually certain” to worsen, the research stated.
Local weather change will “lead to increases in the size and frequency” of heatwaves, ice shelf collapses and declines in sea ice, it stated, drawing on latest proof from scientific research of the Antarctic ocean, ambiance, cryosphere and biosphere.
The exact affect of local weather change on Antarctica and the encircling ocean has been unsure and scientists have struggled to measure how a lot world warming is affecting the thickness of Antarctic ice.
However from phenomena such because the fast decline in sea ice, it’s “scientifically reasonable” to imagine that excessive occasions are going to accentuate as world temperatures rise, stated Martin Siegert, a glaciologist on the College of Exeter and one other co-author.
Final 12 months, an “atmospheric river” originating from Australia drove subtropical warmth and moisture into the continent, inflicting unprecedented temperatures as much as 38.5 Celsius (69.three Fahrenheit) above regular, the most important variance from the norm the world has ever skilled.
Siegert described the temperature enhance as “absolutely astonishing”, including that if it had occurred in the course of the Antarctic summer time, as a substitute of winter, it might have triggered melting on the floor of the East Antarctic ice sheet, which has to this point been spared from melting.
“Antarctica is fragile as an environment, but extreme events test that fragility,” he stated. “What we’re deeply concerned about is the increase in intensity and frequency of extreme events and the cascading influences that they have in other areas.”